We recently spoke with artist, educator, and arts community organizer Mary Goldthwaite Gagne about her work, her connections to the region, and her passion for community. Here is more about her in her own words.
I have been making cut paper illustrations since 2012. I have been interested in portraiture since I was a high school student. I am enamored with likeness and family resemblance. In addition to being a visual artist, I teach art and I am the Visual & Performing Arts department chair at ConVal High School in Peterborough, NH. I also am on the leadership team of The Thing in the Spring and Broke: The Affordable Arts Fair.
On Papercut Portraiture
My early papercuts were focused on pattern and abstraction. I was just getting to know the medium and was drawn to the meditative quality of the process. Over the past six years I have made portraits of my friends, family members, and have done commission work of pets and people from all over. In 2016 I started a series that I called Guided By (Female) Voices, which I exhibited at Aviary Gallery in Jamaica Plain in February of 2018. In that time I made 53 portraits of women that I admire. I started with some of my art heroes: Yoko Ono, The Guerilla Girls, Margaret Kilgallen, Eva Hesse.
Having made the interesting decision to spend my entire adult life as a teacher entrenched in adolescence I think a lot about the folks who supported me into becoming an adult. As the series progressed I started to make portraits of my friends who are also artists, mentors, and folks that I admire and also know in real life. Some of those people are: Raegan Russell (my high school art teacher at Berwick Academy), Sally Keller (who mentored me when I was a student teacher), Rachelle Beaudoin (an amazing multidisciplinary feminist artist who lives and works in Peterborough), and Anna Von Mertens (yet another incredible visual artist who combines traditional handwork processes with science and history).
After soley making portraits of women for almost 2 full years I have just finished a portrait of one of my biggest heroes, Fred Rogers. I am in awe of his radical empathy and relentless positivity. I have been wearing an enamel pin of Mister Rogers every day this school year, and I have only forgotten him once!
On The Thing in the Spring & BROKE
In 2008 my husband, Eric Gagne, friend, Ryan Wilson, and I co-founded The Thing in the Spring and Broke: The Affordable Arts Fair. I met Eric and Ryan at the music counter in The Toadstool Bookshop. I was drawn to their commitment to making interesting music and art events happen in the little hamlet of Peterborough, and they were making really cool show posters for each event. The guiding principle of “The Thing” and “Broke” has always been accessibility and the belief the art is for EVERYBODY. Though Peterborough has a legacy as an artistic community there continues to be room for greater representation and diversity. In 2012 we established The Glass Museum (the organizing entity that now produces The Thing & Broke) as a 501c3 non-profit and we are now supported by an enthusiastic board of directors who volunteer their time and talents to make our events possible. This past summer, June of 2018, we produced the 11th incarnation of The Thing in the Spring and were able to realize a long-held dream of having Bonnie “Prince” Billy perform in the Peterborough Town House.
Right now we are organizing Broke 2018 Holiday Edition, which will take place on November 17th from 10am-4pm at the Peterborough Town House.
The work that I do with Broke and The Thing in the Spring is certainly a collaboration among our board of directors, our extended family of friends who make up our crew, and the folks and businesses that have supported us from the very beginning (The Toadstool Bookshop, Harlow’s Pub, Joseph’s Coat, & The Jack Daniel’s Inn).
Last spring I was approached by my alma mater, Berwick Academy, and asked to do a two-person show with my classmate and friend, Ryan Strobel. Ryan is an amazing ceramic artist and an educator. Though we did not collaborate on art pieces, our work was very influenced by each other, our relationship to our youth, and our identities as educators. The installation of our show, which opened in early September, was very synergetic and a positive experience.
I have been fortunate to work with the folks of MaxT Makerspace, where I have made laser cut editions of my cut paper illustrations. This allows me to sell duplicates of hand cut work for a fraction of the cost.
The nature of my work as an art teacher and a cross country coach are also collaborative.
I am envious of folks who are musicians or make theater, because collaboration is so inherent to the medium. I am in awe of how the “cabin-core” Monadnock-ish band Footings has evolved over time. I have also recently been really inspired by the work of Firelight Theatre Workshop and loved the most recent installment of We Were Friends. Collaboration is something I certainly enjoy, and I am hoping to develop that more in my personal visual art practice.
Mary & Monadnock
I grew up on the seacoast in the tiny town of South Hampton, and I came to the Monadnock Region in 2006. I was drawn to Peterborough’s commitment to the arts. As an art educator, I was so in love with the Children & The Arts Parade of Giant Puppets and in 2009 I was able to meet one of my art heroes (who I’ve also made a portrait of), Kiki Smith, when she won the Edward MacDowell Medal in the Arts.
My vision for arts in the region is inextricably linked to other social issues. I love living in New Hampshire and am committed to our community. There is no simple answer to this issue, but I hope that in the future the Monadnock area can retain more of our young people.
Particluarly, I am hoping for more spaces that are safe, supportive and welcoming to youth. The Avenue A Teen Center in Antrim and The Peterborough Town Library are two shining examples of organizations that are making a concerted effort to hold these spaces for young people in our community. Another organization that I would love to highlight is ConVal End 68 Hours of Hunger. They are doing very important work to help make sure that kids have enough food to eat throughout the weekend.
You can meet me and see some of my work in person at Broke Holiday Edition, where I will be vending alongside 50+ artists who are selling their work for $50 or less. This is a fantastic opportunity to purchase handmade gifts directly from the maker. We have illustrators, potters, woodworkers, chocolatiers, printmakers, weavers, 3!papercutters, folks who make wearables for children, and much more! Students from the ConVal High School Art Club and Woodworking classes will be selling some of their work as well! If folks are interested in vending at Broke in the future they should visit our website and subscribe to the newsletter: www.thethinginthespring.com. They will be notified in January when we post our application for June 2019.
Contact info for Mary: